athelind: (Default)
… I have an icon for "pointless, repetitive, soul-destroying work", but not one for "vital, productive, fulfilling work".


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
Fasten your seatbelts, kids; this post starts talking about current Pop Culture, then veers into politics, philosophy, personal development, and metaprogramming.

It all started when I was doing something I normally avoid: reading comments on an internet blog. Unmoderated comment boards are usually overflowing with ill-considered, insulting, infuriating nonsense that can completely ruin an article I may have otherwise enjoyed.

In this case, however, the opposite occurred.

The io9 Blog's review of James Cameron's Avatar is the same blah-blah-blah-Mighty-Whitey-IN-SPACE critique that I've heard over and over. Nothing new here. The comments, on the other claw, are full of feedback from non-whites and non-Americans that undercut that as a being a white-Americans-are-the-center-of-the-universe interpretation that's at least as insulting, if not moreso.

I think my favorite comment thus far is this one:
All stories are about someone leaving a group or joining a group, it's just that some of these groups are a racial group. Outsider Luke Skywalker joins the rebels and becomes their number one gun. That's a heroic journey story, but if Luke was the only human and all the rest of the rebels were aliens suddenly it becomes a white guilt story? I don't buy it.


And now, Mood Whiplash. This shook some things out in my head, and I think they're worth sharing:

I've been sorting through the cognitive baggage cluttering my mind lately, and you know what? I think that "White Guilt" is a particularly toxic meme. To be more specific, there's a pervasive idea that any action that may have "White Guilt" as a motivating force is automatically invalid, or just more cultural imperialism. This is bullshit. It is an invitation to inaction.

Your Obedient Serpent, when he's not a dragon, is a middle-aged Anglo-American, raised in a middle-class suburb, who's seriously considering an opportunity to teach middle school science in a "high-need", inner-city environment. The very idea of standing in front of a classroom is a massive paradigm shift for him, and coming to this decision has involved jumping over a lot of mental hurdles.

You know what? True Confession Time: One of them was "Mighty Whitey".

"What right do you have to come swooping in with your degree and your laptop and your melanin deficiency, to try and "save" these kids? That's no different than England coking along to "civilize" India!"

Sounds really stupid when you verbalize it, doesn't it?

But people keep saying this, over and over: these stories are bad, they're unprincipled, they're just new and different ways for the privileged to lord it over everyone else. And if these stories are morally suspect, and your life-choices parallel them, why, then, those must be bad choices, right?

Once again: it sounds really stupid when you verbalize it. Stupid and arrogant. The only thing more arrogant than casting yourself as The Great Savior is to walk away from helping people because you're afraid people will think that's what you're doing.

That's part of the point: there are a lot of unexamined assumptions that mass media promulgates on an entirely sub-verbal level. It's good to examine them, it's good to scrutinize them -- but it's an iterative process. What unexamined assumptions are the critiques carrying with them?

One of the big ones, in this case, is the assumption that any real person's real life is simplistic enough to use fiction as a valid model. This isn't the first time I've fallen into that trap, and I'm sure it won't be the last -- but at least now I'm aware that trap is out there.

Or in here.


athelind: (Default)

Upper Mismanagement


Quick Summary: American manufacturing is in trouble in part because American business schools focus almost exclusively on finance, rather than production.

-- found via Boing Boing.



This thesis jibes with my impressions -- or perhaps it just plays into my prejudices.

You see, I've never really believed in money. I never have. I know it only has meaning and value because everyone agrees that it has meaning and value, and I've always found it difficult to buy into the consensual hallucination.

I design games for fun. I model real systems for a vocation. When I look at the financial world and derivative markets and all the rest, it all looks a lot more like the former than the latter. It's made up. It's arbitrary. And it bugs the hell out of me that, over the course of my lifetime, the people playing these made-up number games have managed to arrange the world so that their Game is somehow the Only Important Thing. no matter what else you do, no matter what else you know, you have to play their Game to have any measure of stability or security in your life.

And yet, they have no reciprocal obligation. If you have solid, useful, tangible knowledge, you also have to know their rules at the most basic level, and the more you pick up, the better off you are -- but if you focus on nothing but the Game, you have distinct advantages, economically, socially, and politically.

And, adding insult to very real injury, they constantly pat themselves on the back for being "hard-nosed" and "practical" and "only looking at the bottom line".

In short, they're Munchkins.

And yeah, the idea that their inbred, detached-from-reality number games have eviscerated the economy, leaving nothing but a hollow shell, a junk-bond paper tiger, a ghost made of numbers -- that makes perfect sense to Your Obedient Serpent.

On the other claw, as valid as these points may be, at this juncture in my life, I am forced to ask: Hey, Athe, how's that workin' for you?

I need to reassess my own attitude toward their razzin' frazzin' Game, and my own participation in it. Right now, when someone says "investment" and "mutual funds" to me, what I hear is "gambling" and "scam" -- and that's not useful.


athelind: (Default)

Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So is optimism.


-- distilled from Robert Anton Wilson,
"Ten Good Reasons to Get Out of Bed in the Morning".




My thinking is broken. I've assimilated unhealthy memes.

Taking control of my life means, first and foremost, taking control of my head.

Re-Reading List:
  • Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminati Papers
  • S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action
  • R. Buckminster Fuller:

    • Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
    • Utopia or Oblivion
    • Ideas and Integrities
    • Critical Path (Have I actually read this, or has it just been sitting on my shelf for years?)

  • Sun Bear, The Path of Power
  • Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity
  • Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • Richard Bach:

    • Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
    • Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Hush. It's my metaprogramming list.)




athelind: (Default)

Fed Official Sees High Unemployment For Years

-- Associated Press, via NPR

You know, this actually makes me feel better about the job market in the near future.

Remember the Clinton Boom? (I know it's hard, but it really wasn't that long ago!)

Most "official government reports" of that period just foresaw the good times rollin' along. The few who saw the boom as part of a boom-and-bust cycle were dismissed as Chicken Littles. Same with the housing bubble that ranged through both the Clinton and Bush years.

In the same way, the government officials who currently insist that Recovery Is Just Around The Corner sound impossibly optimistic, seeing unicorns and rainbows in every little upward jig of an isolated economic indicator. Not only don't they convince us, they don't even sound like they've convinced themselves.

Official statements like this one sound so much more plausible. They're rooted in the "common sense" observations every one of us makes every day. They're logical extrapolations of the future from current conditions.

Just like those glorious predictions of the Infinite Boom.1

Because, you see, deep down, nobody really believes in change. They don't believe that things will ever be different. They find it hard to believe, in their hearts, that things ever were different, even if they experienced it themselves.2 My parenthetical comment above, about the Clinton Boom? 'Fess up: it's getting harder and harder to remember those times as genuinely prosperous, isn't it? Instead, it's just the top of a downward slope, not so much "better" as "where 'worse' started".

Don't read too much into this post, really. It's just an early-morning knee-jerk reaction to a headline article. Semantically, it boils down to, "hey, the government says this, so it must be wrong."

I suppose that's as good as any other method of economic prediction.


1Somewhere along the line, as Boom shifted into Decline and from there to Bust, the treatment of the "Technological Singularity" in speculative fiction shifted from "The Rapture of the Nerds" to the geek equivalent of Left Behind. See Accelerando, by Charlie Stross, for a good example of the latter.

2This is, of course, the root of Global Warming Denial.


athelind: (Default)
Got this one from [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte, who in turn imported it from Facebook.



Leave a ONE WORD comment that you think describes me. It can only be one word. No more. Then copy and paste this on your LJ so that I may leave a word about you.


athelind: (Default)
I'm posting this link in part for my own benefit, for easy reference in the future:

“Mister Taxy” Is A Friend Of The Rich.


In which MGK makes it clear that the biggest beneficiaries of tax dollars devoted to social infrastructure are, in fact, the wealthy.

Excerpt:
The level of income inequality between the poorest and richest is the greatest it ever has been in human history. On the one hand, that kind of sucks; on the other hand, it’s amazing. There’s a reason that feudal lords in the Middle Ages weren’t as comparatively rich as modern tycoons, and it’s not because of technology: it’s because they don’t have to spend money on keeping people alive and healthy and generating value and furthermore able to generate the best possible value, because the government does that for them, and frankly does it better than individuals could anyway.



athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
For the first time in years, I've changed my default icon. I've had that CGI shot of myself that Callsfire did for me since I-Don't-Know-When, but when I saw this shot of a crocodilian eye, I knew I needed to appropriate it.

It's become something of a motif, you see:

Eye of the Dragon My new default icon, the eye of an as-yet unidentified reptile. Saurian eye 'midst gold and purplish scales? That's Your Obedient Serpent, lookin' right atcha.

Source: The Weasel King.
Eye of the Sky God Somewhere in my long list of Campaigns I've Never Run is The Eye of the Sky God, a Barsoom-inspired Planetary Romance set amongst the Moons of Jupiter. I need to dig that one out; it's totally Steampunk.

Source: NASA?
Voight-Kampf Test The Voight-Kampf Test screen from Blade Runner.
Eye of Agammotto The Eye of Agammotto, Dr. Strange's amulet. I use this one for mystical/surrealist entries.

Source: The Lesser Book of the Vishanti.
RCA Magic Eye An old RCA Victor ad, touting their "Magic Eye" and "Magic Brain" tuning technology. It's my "Weird Science/Technology" icon.

Source.


Other than the Magic Eye, they even have similar color schemes. I particularly like the similarity between the Dragon Eye and the Eye of the Sky God; rotate the Red Spot a few degrees counter-clockwise, and they'd line right up.

The Red Spot and the V-K Test are relatively recent additions; I need to start using them more, I think.

athelind: (Default)
I announced today, to my FurryMUCK clique, that I didn't want to see any more trailers for Monster Hunter 3. The game doesn't just annoy me: it actively pisses me off, and worse, it makes me think badly not only of gamers in general but of Japanese culture, in wide, bigoted swaths.

The game is beautifully animated, and the eponymous monsters of the title are magnificently designed. Every trailer looks like a wonderful Discovery Channel nature documentary of a world that never was, full of dinosaurs and dragons and even more exotic creatures -- right up until you get to the gameplay, which involves killing things and dismembering them for their body parts to make cheesy, tawdry consumer goods kewl weapons and armor and magic items.

It's jarring.

The generation that grew up on Cute And Fuzzy Cockfighting Seizure Monsters has graduated to Heroic Head-Bashing Harp Seal Hunters. Look at these marvelous creatures! The loving detail that went into their creation! The magnificent, balletic fluidity of their motion! LET'S HIT THEM WITH CLUBS!

This is a game that comes from one of the last whaling nations on Earth. I'm sorry -- this is that "wide, bigoted swath" I mentioned -- but I can't help but see a connection.

This doesn't piss me off as a guy who pretends to be a dragon online. This pisses me off as an Environmental Scientist, and a human being raised with some semblance of decency and empathy toward the natural world.

I don't put much credence into combat games as "murder simulators", but I do think the prevalent attitude these games have that animals serve no purpose other than to exploit, enslave or slaughter provides a bad example.

I wish I could believe that this was meant ironically, or as a commentary on the exploitation of the natural world. The unambitious modeling and jerky animation of the player avatars certainly suggests that; they're raw, brutish intrusions on the elegantly savage ballet of the "monsters". A decade of Happy Cartoony Cockfighting Games For Little Children makes that hard, though.


And after all that self-righteous ranting to my homies about how terrible it is to brainwash kiddies into seeing the slaughter and exploitation of magnificent animals as something fun and exciting, I announced that I was gonna go grab a burger before work.
And then, at work, I was chatting with two of my regular customers, and one of them said, "you really need to get a PSP. Do you have any consoles at all? There's this game..."
"Funny thing, that", said I...

athelind: (Default)
Apparently, there's a group out there encouraging people to red shirts on Fridays to "support our troops".

Here's a link to their site, which plays really, really cheesy music. You've been warned.)

Yes, let's wear red shirts on Friday to underscore how nameless and expendable our troops are.

I know that not everyone is a Star Trek fan, but even a cursory Google search would have suggested the Unfortunate Implications.

athelind: (Default)

The Florida legislature has approved religious-themed specialty license plates.



They didn't get to see them before the vote, but here's a pic:



Tasteful, aren't they?

That big gap in the middle makes coming up with appropriate personalized plates a challenge that we rose to meet.

Cut for tasty, tasteless sacrilege! )
And now it's your turn!

That's what Comments are for!


athelind: (Default)
Easter is a holiday that almost escapes my notice. I observe the Equinox, of course, and I've been quietly raising a glass to Yuri Gagarin every evening, but when I drifted away from being even nominally Christian (around age 12-13, honestly), Easter was just one of those things that went with it.

Christmas, now... Christmas has been embraced so thoroughly by the secular culture and, more significantly, the consumer culture that it's acknowledged and sometimes observed by people of entirely different religious faiths.

Easter, in contrast, has always seemed thoroughly Christian to me. Not that I think that's a bad thing: unlike many of my peers, I don't have the knee-jerk reaction that Organized Religion Is The Enemy Of All That Is Just And Good. Believe me, if there's one thing about the Christian faith that resonates with me, it's the themes of Sacrifice and Redemption, of Rebirth and Renewal.

I even, these days, practice Lent, in an entirely secular manner: there are things that I want to cut down on, and it's easier to give up something when there's communal/social reinforcement -- even if you aren't in any direct contact with the actively-practicing community.

Easter is such a thing of nails and crosses, though. It's so specifically religious that its secular/commercial aspect of hard-boiled eggs and cheap bunny fursuits never really seemed to have the same cultural import as the Jolly Fat Man and his Bag Full of Presents. It didn't even occur to me that the comic store might not be open on Easter Sunday until my boss asked me, apologetically, if I would mind working on a day that I normally work anyway.

Even my expectations for the day reflect this quandary: The bosses expect it to be slow, since most of the mall will be closed, because it's Easter. I expect it to be swamped, because we're gonna be the only open store in a mall with a major cinema complex on a day when Families Go Do Stuff.

I just don't think of Easter as a "real" holiday anymore -- that is, one celebrated for reasons besides its religious signficance. For the last couple of days, I've been pondering this cultural disconnect -- my complete lack of recognition of Easter's apparent importance as a secular phenomenon -- and I think I've finally hit upon the core of the issue.

Cut for socio-religious metaphysical maundering... )

So, let me ask those of you who aren't practicing Christians -- what does Easter mean to you? What parts of the holiday do you still recognize and acknowledge?

athelind: (Default)
Posting this so I don't lose the link: d20 Modern, The Full Monte

They have a zipped, downloadable version right there on the front page.

For those baffled by this, geeky prattle follows. )
athelind: (Default)
The mild case of the flu that I've been fighting since Tuesday has transmogrified into a day of Coughing Up Globs of Unpleasantness, Mental Incoherence*, and General Misery.

Semantically, I have discovered that the word "phlegm" is an ideal expletive. While it refers to a bodily secretion, it is not technically scatological. It manages to simultaneously avoid both the social taboos and the banality of more traditional vulgarities, eschewing the conventional form of "shock value" in favor of a genuine, visceral revulsion. When you utter "phlegm" as an expletive, the listener's mind immediately clicks onto the word's meaning.

The sound of the word is deeply evocative of its meaning, to the point of onomatopoeia. The dictionary insists that it's simply pronounced [flěm], but, personally, I tend to give "ph" a slightly more plosive emphasis than "f", and that "g" isn't so much "silent" as subliminal. [flěm] simply isn't as gutteral. With the proper pronunciation and emphasis, uttering "phlegm" at an irritating or offensive situation should clearly convey the impression that you are suppressing the impulse to clear your throat and spit.

It is my fervent** hope that, upon reading this, others will simply be too revolted to adopt this usage; if it were to enter common usage, it would soon lose the qualities that make it so effective an expression of displeasure, becoming as conventional as any of Carlin's Seven Words.



*Yes, this is how I communicate when I'm "incoherent". The little words go first, leaving a cascade of polysyllabic babbling that is only superficially erudite.
**in its literal meaning of "fevered"; rest assured that I would not wax so eloquently about such a topic were I, in fact, in my right mind.
***I suppose you could say that I'm "operating under the influenz-a".
****Or perhaps I'm merely a hack writer.

athelind: (Default)
This one's been going around lately, so I thought I'd share my answers to The Controversial Survey... )

athelind: (Default)
In response to my post about "throwing the moneylenders out of the temple", [livejournal.com profile] toob asked:

I suppose a comment on how perverse it is what we consider a "temple" nowadays would not be out of order?

Generally, I confess, I have little patience for rosy-hued visions of the "Good Old Days". However... I would argue, to the contrary, that it is perverse that we no longer consider the halls of government a temple.

The 18th and 19th centuries were really the heyday for perceiving such abstracts as Liberty and Justice as benevolent goddesses, and the halls of government as temples of civic virtue. However failed that may have been in practice, I find the ideal far preferable to the modern perception of those ladies as commodities to be bought and sold.

So, yes, throw them out of the temples indeed, and rescue Lady Columbia and her sisters from the streetcorner! Put paid to the quick-fisted procurer in his top hat and his fancy zoot suit, and the plutocrats and zealots to whom he panders!


athelind: (Default)


I know posting something like this on my blog is largely preaching to the choir, but I wanted to pass it on anyway.

athelind: (Default)
A few days ago, John McCain's Head of Communications made a snarky comment about "the Pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd ...[in]... mom's basement" -- echoing a comment he made earlier in the summer.

Everyone's been treating this as an amusingly stupid gaffe, but remember: this is the same campaign that has paid for ads portraying Barack Obama as the Anti-Christ, or, at the very least, a false prophet.

The Radical Religious Right loves to portray fantasy novels and role-playing games as Tools of Satan. Now, the once-"moderate" G.O.P. candidate's are hinting that the bloggers and columnists who support Obama are those same Scary But Comical Satan-Lovers.

Coincidence? John Brunner defined that as "You weren't paying attention to the other half of what was going on."

Head of Communications, indeed. This guy's got scary semiotic savvy; he knows exactly what buttons to push in his constituency.

athelind: (Default)
If there is a single lesson in all the world's religions and philosophies that is more important, more useful, and more conducive to benevolent living and spiritual soundness than The Golden Rule, it is this:

The finger pointing at the Moon is not the Moon.

Stop mistaking your models for reality. The map is not the territory; the word is not the thing.

This has been a public service announcment.

Signs!

Oct. 17th, 2002 12:47 pm
athelind: (Default)
While working on an Environmental Ethics paper just now, I went out and took a walk out into the hills to clear my mind and get some thoughts straight.

As I wandered and pondered, I found myself thinking about the whole animism thing, and how I thought the idea of whimsical, unpredictable nature spirits all with their own agendas made much more sense to me than the monotheistic concept of a single All-Wise, All-Knowning, All-Benevolent All-Father.

In the midst of this musing, I crested a hill-- and about a hundred feet or so ahead of me, a grizzled gray shape came loping and bouncing out of the woods, then arced gracefully back in. I couldn't identify it at first, but as I caught glimpses of it in the trees, I had no trouble.

Coyote, of course.

He stood in a clearing in that clump of woods, looking at me, then looking off across the trail, not quite wanting to disregard me, but not quite having the attention span to focus on me.

I waved, and called out, "Hello, Grandfather! Am I on the right track?"

And then I turned and let him be, grinning cheerfully.

Do monotheists have this kind of fun with THEIR god?

March 2010

S M T W T F S
  12 3 4 56
78910 111213
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 222324252627
28293031   

Tags

Page generated Mar. 26th, 2017 09:14 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios